Don't follow Bolton down path to war with Iran

President Donald Trump says his administration’s intense intimidation of Iran is designed only to leverage a nuclear arms control deal more to his liking. That might be easier to believe if Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton wasn’t pulling the strings behind the curtain.

Bolton, who arrives in our fair city Wednesday to address the Coast Guard Academy's Class of 2019 at its commencement, wants regime change in Iran; either internally by revolution, or externally by war. He has for a long time.

Asked last week whether the nation is headed on a path to war with Iran, Trump responded, “I hope not.”

That’s hardly reassuring.

The Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2015 between Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain and the United States. In return for abandoning its nuclear development program, economic sanctions on Iran were lifted.

Trump never liked the Iran deal. He pledged in 2016 to pull the U.S. out of the agreement if he were elected president. He was, and he did in May 2018.

Around the same time, Bolton moved from his perch as a Fox News pundit to Team Trump. It was an odd match. The isolationist leaning president and the regime-change hawk.

Bolton, the United Nations ambassador under George W. Bush, labels Iran “the world’s largest financier of international terrorism;” supporting militant groups in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. Bolton argues a change in leadership is the only solution to halt Iranian hostility.

The Iranian leadership, predictably, has other ideas. Rather than abandon the nuclear deal after Trump departed, the Iranians continued to abide by the agreement. Britain, France and Germany pledged to remain in the deal.

Trump responded by reinstating the economic sanctions on Iran’s lucrative oil business that were in place prior to the 2015 accord. The return of sanctions crippled Iran’s oil exports and sent the economy into recession.

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, reversed course on May 8. He warned that Iran would resume high-level uranium enrichment within 60 days unless Europe stepped up economic activity with his country.

That triggered an escalation this week in the high-stakes standoff. Trump said he would impose “maximum pressure” to make Iran capitulate. First, Trump designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the elite fighting unit of Iran’s leadership, as a terrorist organization. Next came a warning from intelligence gathering that Iranian-inspired attacks on American interests in the Middle East were “imminent.” The Pentagon launched a military buildup in the Persian Gulf, including a missile defense system, a B-52 bomber squadron and an aircraft carrier.

The State Department followed with orders to all non-emergency U.S. government employees to evacuate the embassies in Iraq.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went on a crisis diplomacy tour to Europe, the Middle East and Russia. Pompeo made an uninvited appearance at a meeting of European foreign ministers in Brussels a week ago to lobby for a united front against Iran. He won no support.

The Europeans find themselves being blackmailed by both Iran and the United States. If they defy Trump and trade with Iran, they invite possible American sanctions against Europe. If the Europeans align with the United States, then Iran abandons the nuclear deal and begins enriching uranium.

Meanwhile, Bolton convinced Trump to inflict more economic pain on Iran with new sanctions on steel, aluminum, copper and iron exports. He targeted Iran’s remaining oil export business by revoking waivers the U.S. that had allowed eight countries to continue purchasing Iranian oil.

Bolton’s master plan is to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero, crater its economy, and impose severe hardships on the Iranian people. His end game foresees a popular uprising that ousts the Iranian regime. That misguided quest has been his declared ambition for decades.

The Day believes Trump’s bellicose strategy of imposing “maximum pressure” on Iran is not only counterproductive but dangerous. The president is making a mistake following the lead of a man so willing to spill American blood to pursue his foreign strategic goals.

Under Trump, the nation grows closer to a military conflict with Iran. And Iran, which had agreed to halt its nuclear development, is now closer to resuming uranium enrichment. The president should not double-down on his failed policy decisions.

Bolton’s desire for regime change in Iran stirs memories of the disastrous Iraq war. Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost and a trillion dollars were squandered because of false intelligence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

In this latest American misadventure, the bitter lessons of Iraq are being ignored.

When he arrives Wednesday, Bolton should be reminded of Winston Churchill’s wise warning that “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”

 

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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